Laguna Queshquecocha and its intriguing forest of Puya Raimondii is a remote landscape found at the far end of the Queshque Valley in Peru, just outside of Catac, near Huaraz. If you’re looking for off-the-beaten-track hiking, showing a different side to the impressive Cordillera Blanca, then this very easy hike is definitely worth a look.
In this guide, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about hiking to Laguna Queshquecocha, as well as two other lakes you’ll see on the trail. We’ll also throw in a little info about the incredible Puya Raimondii, because, well, they’re just uber cool. After describing the hike, we’ll detail how to get to Laguna Queshquecocha independently and also discuss options for visiting with a tour company. We’ll also tell you about other amazing hikes that you should do during a trip to Huaraz.
If you like the look of the quiet and secluded Laguna Queshquecocha, you should check out Laguna 513, Laguna Shallap and Laguna Hualcacocha during your stay in Huaraz. They’re other incredible but less hiked trails.
Laguna Queshquecocha Overview
With a wealth of laguna hikes in the Cordillera Blanca, choosing the ones worthy of your precious travel time can be difficult. Often, it’s easiest to have your decision swayed by the most popular. And let’s face it, they’re often the most popular for a reason. Laguna 69, Laguna Churup and Laguna Paron are all classic examples of this. And, they’re all absolutely worth a visit.
But, what if you have a little extra time in Huaraz? Or, what if you don’t want to visit popular places? Well, maybe Laguna Queshquecocha and a hike through the Queshque Valley might be worth some consideration.
Look, in all honesty, the hike can’t rival those mind-blowing views of turquoise lakes, glaciers and mountain passes you’ll see on many other treks in Huaraz. But, to be honest, that isn’t the beauty of Laguna Queshquecocha anyway.
A barren and somewhat rugged landscape of rolling hills replaces craggy mountainsides and grand canyon passageways. Turquoise lagoons are replaced with natural-looking lakes, filled with birdlife, including flamingoes. And, what makes the Laguna Queshquecocha hike truly special, is the huge forest of Puya Raimondii. Completely breathtaking. And the best part, you’re unlikely to see another soul all day.
During the hike, you’ll pass by three glorious lakes. The first is Laguna Queshquecocha, filled with flamingoes. The second is Laguna Jarpococha, the largest of the lakes. And thirdly, Laguna Queshque, which has incredible views of Mururaju Mountain and Queshque Mountain in the background. It also sits adjacent to the large Puya Raimondii forest.
So, where exactly is this lake located?
Where is Laguna Queshquecocha?
Laguna Queshquecocha lies south of the city of Huaraz, almost at the southern end of the Cordillera Blanca massif. The lake sits within the beautiful Queshque Valley and is part of Huascaran National Park. Although, we didn’t have to pay the usual daily entrance fee of S/30 ($8USD)/person to access the national park. Not sure if we just got lucky. Dan and I had bought the month pass anyway, given the wealth of hikes we’d be doing. The cost is S/150 ($38USD)/person.
The closest sizeable town is Catac, just a one-hour drive south of Huaraz. Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash region and makes the perfect base from which to explore Queshquecocha, as well as many other spectacular lagoons in the area.
Laguna Queshquecocha Hike Details & Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 6km
- Duration: 2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 155m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Laguna Queshquecocha
The trailhead for Laguna Queshquecocha begins on a flat and rather boggy patch of land. There is a small farm here and a purpose-built picnic area to enjoy the wider surroundings.
Admittedly, from here, Dan and I were a little perplexed as to where the trail initially led. It mostly kind of disappeared and then reappeared in a different place. This turned out to be the case for the whole hike. But, rest assured, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a case of following along the right-hand side of the lakes and finding your own way through the Queshque Valley. Mostly trying to avoid any very boggy sections.
We were, however, using a GPS map to keep to the general vicinity of that of a previous hiker. This was helpful.
Queshque Valley Lagunas
The first lake you’ll pass in the Queshque Valley is Laguna Queshquecocha. A wide expanse of deep blue water that looks more natural lake-like than the usual glacial lagunas in the Cordillera Blanca. There’s plenty of birdlife to enjoy here, including flamingoes. Though, they were a little shy during our visit.
Continuing over the undulating hillside, you’ll soon reach the second lake. This is much larger, with an emerald green colour more familiar with Cordillera Blanca lagoons. This is Laguna Jarpococha, and it’s beautiful. On the opposite side, you’ll catch sight of a small patch of Puya Raimondii. Fear not, that’s not the last of it. There’s still much more to enjoy of the Puya Raimondii further along the trail.
A little further investigation of the landscape brings you to the third and final lake. Laguna Queshque is framed beautifully by the snow-capped mountains of Queshque and Mururaju Mountains in the distance. It’s also at this stage of the hike where you get to enjoy the Puya Raimondii forest at last. This is something we’d only seen once before during our Peru travels, on our way to Pastoruri Glacier. Only this one is even better.
What is Puya Raimondii?
Puya Raimondii, also known as the ‘Queen of the Andes‘, is the largest known species of bromeliad – basically the same family as the pineapple, which, interestingly, is the only edible bromeliad. Anywho, Puya Raimondii is only found in the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia (between 3,000–4,800m) and is quite the impressive spectacle. They really are huge and the Laguna Queshquecocha hike and the Queshque Valley is one of the best examples to see them!
Puya Raimondii can reach as tall as 15 metres, and frequently have a ring of some 200 leaves surrounding the base. In a three-month period, they can produce 8,000+ Puya Raimondii flowers. Though, they only flower once in their lifetime. They’re odd-looking plants that add a touch of humour to the dramatic landscape of the Huascaran National Park. And quite rightly, the Puya Raimondii is an object of conservation as it’s classed as endangered.
After enjoying the surroundings, and eventually tearing yourself away from the incredible Puya Raimondii, it’s simply a case of retracing your steps to return to the trailhead and finish off the Queshquecocha hike.
Given the ease of this trek and its slightly lower elevation than previous Huaraz hikes Dan and I had done, we took the opportunity to take up a little speed hiking. We were soon back at the car, whizzing through Catac and back in Huaraz, just in time for an afternoon coffee.
What’s speed hiking? It’s hiking with the intent to go faster! We love doing it to work up a sweat. Read more about speed hiking here.
Do note though, that it’s possible to hike further in the Queshque Valley. There is a multi-day trek that continues closer to the mountains, finishing at Laguna Pamparajo. This typically takes the form of a two-day trek. Again, you won’t find many people doing this hike. So, you might be enjoying a couple of days in the mountains here, and sleeping amongst the giant Puya Raimondii, all to yourself.
Drop us a note in the comments if you decide to multi-day this hike! We’d love to hear about it.
Laguna Queshquecocha Tours
The most straightforward way to hike Laguna Queshquecocha and explore the Queshque Valley is by tour. The cheapest way to do this is by booking transport only, and hiking independently. This is how Dan and I visited and we found it to be very convenient as we got to hike by ourselves, which is our preference. But, we had the convenience of a driver taking us to the trailhead, and waiting for us to finish.
We recommend Qorianka for this service. We used them in this way to hike Laguna Hualcacocha and Laguna Rajucolta and found the service to be excellent. To hire a private driver for the day with Qorianka costs S/280 ($70USD). If you’d rather tackle this hike with a guide, Qorianka offers a private service for groups of eight. The price is S/334 ($84USD)/person. Alternatively, hiking in a larger group will only be S/118 ($30USD)/person, although a group size of 14–18 people is required. This could be tricky for such a quiet and unknown hiking trail.
Guides are never a bad idea if you’re after a little more history, culture or general information about an area. And on a hike like this one, which includes cool birdlife like flamingoes, and flora like Puya Raimondii, I’m sure an expert’s knowledge will be most welcomed.
How to Get to Laguna Queshquecocha
As previously mentioned, the easiest way to hike Quesquecocha is to hire a private driver or to take a tour. However, it’s certainly unnecessary to have a guide. Also, stricter budgets might dictate a more cost-effective solution.
To that end, if you want to make your own way to Catac from Huaraz, and then on to Laguna Queshquecocha, you’ll need to take a colectivo from Huaraz to Catac. From Catac, you’ll then need to find a taxi, mototaxi or private driver to take you to the trailhead. Although not impossible, we were told it might be a struggle to find a driver willing to wait for you. At any rate, money talks and fingers crossed you have good negotiation skills. Also, the hike really isn’t too long, so, you’d only require the driver to wait for a few hours, tops. Not, of course, for the full day.
Then it’s just a case of jumping in the taxi back to Catac and waiting for one of the many colectivos passing through and returning to Huaraz.
Other Things to do in Catac From Huaraz
Whilst staying in Huaraz, there are a few other attractions to see in the Catac area. And, since transport between Huaraz and Catac is so straightforward, they may pique your interest.
- Laguna Querococha: the only lagoon where conditions are just right for sport fishing. You can find trout aplenty here.
- Cave Paintings of Carpa: impressive paintings dating from between 200–600BC, after the demise of the Chavín culture.
- Pastoruri Glacier: the Pastoruri Glacier is a must-visit when in Huaraz, and is very close to Catac. There are few glaciers left in the tropical regions of South America, but Pastoruri is one of them, although it’s retreating.
Best Time to Visit
You’ll have a better chance of good weather in the dry season, which runs from May to October. Less rain and low clouds equal an all-round better hiking experience. Dan and I had fine weather for hiking and had really clear views of Queshque Mountain. But, remember, mountain weather is always unpredictable.
Thankfully, this hike never gets too crowded either. We saw no other people on this hike! So, even during peak tourist times in the dry season, you shouldn’t see many, if any, people on the trail. This means, undoubtedly, the dry season is the best time to visit.
How to Acclimatise
Laguna Queshquecocha sits at 4,284m above sea level. Before you do the hike, you should definitely acclimatise. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by those who reach high altitudes that they’re not used to. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. Even if you have avoided altitude sickness in the past, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it the next time.
You’ve probably heard about different ways to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness is to avoid going up too high, too quickly! Generally speaking, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
In practice, if you arrive in Huaraz (3,050 metres above sea level), you should have at least two days’ rest before you start trekking. This should give your body time to adjust and acclimatise. In theory, by the third day, your body should be able to tolerate approx. 3,550 metres. By this time, you should start with some hikes with a lower maximum elevation gain. For instance, you could start with Laguna Wilcacocha (3,710m) and then perhaps Laguna Shallap (4,250m) before attempting Laguna Queshquecocha. This will reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
There are other ways you can reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush when you’re hiking. If you feel out of breath, simply stop and take a break. Secondly, eat light meals, don’t eat them too quickly and stay hydrated. Also, you may benefit from coca leaves, tea or sweets. Locals recommend these. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, you shouldn’t need these.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
Of course, if you’re exploring the lakes of the Queshque Valley near Catac, you’ll likely need a place to stay in Huaraz. We’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Accommodation Bella-Vista: this is a good option for travellers on a shoestring budget. At Accommodation Bella-Vista, you’ll have a decent stay that’s great value for money. They do have private rooms; but, of course, the dorm rooms are where you’ll save.
- Mid-range – Krusty Hostel B&B: Dan and I really enjoyed our stay at Krusty Hostel B&B. It’s one of the most highly-rated places to stay in Huaraz, and we found the private rooms to be nice and cosy. The hostel also features a large shared kitchen, which includes a free breakfast. Plus, the Wifi is very good.
- Luxury – Cordillera Hotel: this is possibly the best hotel in Huaraz. Cordillera Hotel is an excellent place to stay, with super lovely rooms and modern facilities. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to stay in the area.
Other Hikes in Huaraz
There are so many brilliant hikes and lakes in Huaraz to explore. We highly recommend doing the following trails when you visit:
- Laguna Wilcacocha: a great acclimatisation hike exploring the Cordillera Negra.
- Laguna 69 hike: one of the most popular day hikes to do from Huaraz, but understandably so.
- Four Lagunas Trek: a very challenging day hike, but our absolute favourite.
- Laguna 513: okay, this could also be our favourite. A mind-blowing lagoon.
- Laguna Paron tour: the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca.
- Pastoruri Glacier tour: incredible glacier with a short high-altitude hike to reach it.
- Laguna Churup: a fun hike with a clear glacial lagoon at the top.
- Laguna Llaca: a quiet hike to a duck-egg blue-coloured lake.
- Huayhuash Trek: an epic multi-day hike you’ll remember forever.
- Laguna Hualcacocha: one of the newest hikes in Huaraz.
- Laguna Rajucolta: a very easy and enjoyable day hike.
- Santa Cruz Trek: a world-class multi-day trek.
- Laguna Shallap: a hike to a phenomenal green lake. Seriously, super green.
- Laguna Yanacocha and Uruscocha: one of the hardest day hikes in Huaraz.
What to Wear and Pack
Why do you need this?
See it in action
The perfect boot for hiking in Peru – comfortable, breathable and lightweight.
This camera is super lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for day hikes. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
You can never really rely on mountain weather. A fleece is a great piece of hiking equipment to bring along just in case
The neck gaiter has quickly become an essential pieve of out hiking gear. So versatile!
Always pack a waterproof jacket, because you just never know! Especially in the mountains.
You should also pack water, snacks, lunch, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat for your hike to Laguna Queshquecocha.
- Flora and fauna: alongside the incredible Puya Raimondii, the Queshque Valley is a great place to try and spot some other Andean natives on your travels, like spectacled bears, condors and vicunas.
- Use Busbud: a simple way to book bus tickets in advance at competitive prices. We used Busbud to book our bus from Lima to Huaraz.
- Rugged Peruvian landscape: if you love the landscape of Laguna Queshquecocha and the Puya Raimondaii forest, you should check out Pastoruri Glacier, Huchuy Qosqo Trek and Laguna Wilcacocha.
Trekking in Huaraz provides some of the best trails to hike in all of Peru, especially laguna hiking. Save this post to add to your Peru hiking itinerary.
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